An Old Boy changing the Aussie aviation landscape

September 15, 2019

The 100th anniversary of a pioneering drive involving a SPC Old Collegian was celebrated in recent months – one that ushered Queensland into the age of aviation and established an airline giant.

That Old Collegian was Paul McGinness (SPC 1910-11), a boarder from Framlingham, near Port Fairy. Paul attended SPC along with his brother James Patrick (SPC 1896). Paul went onto to enlist in the war, initially with the 8th Light Horse Regiment and later with the 67th Squadron AFC.

His road trip back in 1919 changed the aviation landscape and the remarkable chain of events were revisited by The Courier Mail recently in this story, see below, which co-incided with the 100th anniversary celebrations at the Qantas Founders Musuem at Longreach QLD on August 18.

Read more about Paul McGinness’ war service in the College’s book, “Our Bravest – SPC Old Boys in the wars – Volume I: The Great War (1914-18)” or go online to this link (


“IT WAS one of the most important road trips ever made in Australia; 51 days of bashing through the Top End bush in a battered Model T Ford.

A hundred years ago, the arduous journey opened the young nation to an endless array of global possibilities.

It was on August 19, 1919, that 39-year-old Longreach mechanic George Gorham and two newly returned First World War airmen Paul McGinness, 23, and Hudson Fysh, 24, left Longreach in their jalopy, heading for the Gulf of Carpentaria.

“Ginty’’ McGinness was a real goer. A graduate of St Patrick’s College in Ballarat, he was one of the few survivors of the charge at The Nek on Gallipoli in August 1915. He became a fighter pilot in Palestine and having shot down at least seven enemy aircraft, he was soon recognised as one of the few air aces in the desert war.

Launceston-born Hudson Fysh became the gunner on Ginty’s fighter plane.

Early in 1919, the pair planned to compete for the ₤10,000 prize the Australian government was offering for the first England-to-Australia flight but their prospective sponsor, the wealthy philanthropist Sir Samuel McCaughey died, leaving them without wings.

Instead they were hired by the Department of Defence to create landing grounds across northern Australia for competitors in the great air race as they flew from Darwin to Melbourne to collect the cash.

Their 2180km route would take them north to Burketown where they would swing left for a drive across the roof of Australia to Katherine, where they would then catch a train to Darwin.

British-born Gorham, 39, had served with the British Royal Horse Artillery in India from 1895 to 1907 and had been among the first men from Longreach to enlist in The Great War, serving in Gallipoli and France.

The rough bush tracks north were more suited to animal-drawn vehicles, bullock drays and stage coaches. Camel thorn tore the car’s tyres apart and instead of using inner tubes Gorham stuffed the tyres with spinifex grass to keep them in shape and turning.

They spluttered on through the scrub and across crocodile-infested rivers and at night they talked about how Queensland and the Northern Territory really needed an aerial service.

By the time the weary travellers made it to Katherine, McGinness and Fysh had a rough idea to link the remote settlements they had visited by aircraft.

Fysh stayed in Darwin to welcome the winners of the air race, a team led by Ross and Keith Smith from South Australia, while McGinness began the return journey home. McGinness met grazier Fergus McMaster, when McMaster’s car axle broke down at the Cloncurry River.

McGinness fixed the car and McMaster became one of the key investors in the new aircraft business they formed on November 16, 1920 and which they called Queensland And Northern Territory Aerial Services Limited — Qantas.

McGinness may have suffered post-traumatic stress disorder after the war and he struggled with personal relationships.

He split with Qantas in 1922 and tried his hand at tobacco farming.

When he died in Perth in 1952 there were only two mourners by his graveside.

Hudson Fysh was knighted in June 1953. When he died in Sydney in 1974 his airline had grown from a single biplane to a fleet of Jumbo Jets proudly bearing the logo of the flying kangaroo.”